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Spend 5 Minutes, Maybe Save a Life

by Brian Dunning, Mar 22 2012

Before you read any further, click this link to bring up a long list (opens in a separate browser window).

National Marrow Donor Program kit

In the United States alone, about 10,000 people each year are diagnosed with a life-threatening illness for which a stem cell transplant is the best treatment option. The most common such illnesses are leukemia and lymphoma. Most of us know somebody who has had at least one of these: I have a friend who survived leukemia, and a close relative who did not.

Use the cotton swabs to brush the inside of each cheek to collect a few skin cells

To perform a stem cell transplant, a donor is needed. Bone marrow is extracted from the donor, which is then used to provide the stem cells. The most difficult part of this is finding a suitable donor. They must be a genetic match, and such matches are exceedingly hard to find.

The National Marrow Donor Program maintains a genetic database that’s searched whenever someone needs such a transplant. Unfortunately, these searches often fail to find a match, and all too often, a patient dies who might have been helped had a donor been matched.

Stick a barcode sticker on each swab, and place them in the little foam holder

Almost anyone can easily be added to this life-saving database, and it takes just a few minutes of your time. I did it this week, and I wanted to share with you how easy it is, and encourage you to do the same.

They will happily send you a little kit, free of charge, once you give them your address. The kit arrives in your mail, encoded with barcodes for your privacy. It consists of four cotton swabs, and all you have to do is rub the inside of your mouth with each. You place the swabs back into the provided holder, seal the postage-free envelope, and drop it in the mail. You’re done. It’s incredibly easy, and will be the feel-good highlight of your month.

Drop it into the mail. You're done!

About 1 in every 540 people who submit samples ends up being asked to donate. If you are fortunate enough to be matched with a patient whom you can help, the rewards speak for themselves.

If you have any questions at all about bone marrow donation, the program has an excellent page answering all the frequently asked questions.

Click here to order your kit now.

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13 Responses to “Spend 5 Minutes, Maybe Save a Life”

  1. Donna Treadaway says:

    Thank you, Brian, for posting this! I had not heard about this blood stem cell technique before. I will happily register!

  2. Craig Good says:

    Sweet. Years ago, when I first signed up, they required a blood test. Which was still no big deal. This sounds crazy easy! Highly recommended.

  3. Bill says:

    I signed up as a potential donor years ago. Got called once as a close match for someone needing a transplant, but after running some further screening tests, they found another donor who was a closer genetic match. Even though I wasn’t chosen as the donor, the feeling of being able to help someone in such desparate need was incredible.

  4. Gr8GooglyMoogly says:

    I registered several years ago when a good friend was desperately searching for a donor to save their newborn with Leukemia. Sadly, no donor was found. Please, people, get registered!! You could save a life!

  5. Janet Camp says:

    I read through all the procedures and FAQ’s and was all set to sign up–then the first thing that popped out was the age limit (which I had been wondering about).

    Alas, I’m just past the limit of 60. I felt so bad as I was all set to DO IT.

    It might be a good idea to put that in the FAQ’s :-) Anyway, I’ll tell my kids and grandkids to sign up.

    • starskeptic says:

      Step 1. Confirm you meet basic registry guidelines
      Please check the boxes below to confirm you meet Be The Match Registry guidelines. You need to meet all the guidelines and check all the boxes to go on to the next step.

      Age: I am between the ages of 18 and 60.

      ***Right on the first page after clicking on “join”

  6. gwen says:

    I used to be on the registry, although I hadn’t heard anything for years (I haven’t moved or changed my number). I see from the qualifications that I sadly no longer qualify due to severe allergies. I will ask my children to sign up. Thanks for publicizing. A friend is getting set to donate for a multiracial recipient, and I have cared for many children where the donation meant life instead of death.

  7. d brown says:

    Well, I just found out I probably have bone cancer. Be nice if they could take my own stem cells and grow them. Like its done with dogs. But I expect to be will be dead by the time they will. If they can.

  8. Kenneth Polit says:

    Thank you for posting this. I have been on the registry for three years now. Still haven’t been called but I’m ready.

  9. Dan says:

    Wow, this post is a couple days old and Max hasn’t shown up to disagree with everything Mr. Dunning has ever done or said. Surprising!

    Thanks for posting this important message Brian. I need to get on the registry.

  10. Patrick says:

    Done. Already got an email, saying it will be here in two weeks.

  11. Lisa M says:

    A close friend donated marrow to a cancer patient a few years ago. To see her face light up as she talked about the experience was wonderful; it felt to her like one of the most important things she’d ever done in her life. Unfortunately the man died before it was possible for her to meet him (a certain length of time has to pass), but her donation gave him another eight months of quality life.

    One of the police officers I work with contracted leukemia about six years ago and is alive today thanks to bone marrow donation. Inspired by this, our workplace arranged a day for interested employees to be tested. I was excited to do this, after my friend’s experience, but was ultimately rejected because I have ITP (a chronic immune disease involving the blood platelets). But it was heartening to see the number of fellow employees who were motivated to sign up. Kudos to you, Brian, for publicizing this very urgent need.

  12. Patrick says:

    Got my swabs today!